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Guardian reveals new research

Nationwide research Shift happens reveals that despite a pessimistic national outlook, Britain in 2023 prioritises pleasure, and loves a ‘fakeaway’.

Guardian reveals new research
James Fleetham: “I love this report because it answers the question advertisers ask us the most; what’s happening in culture?”

The Guardian’s advertising department has published findings of new research “Shift happens”, a UK-wide study including a diverse and nationally representative survey of more than 2,600 adults, that examines the national mood, what people are doing to live well and how advertisers can help.

Despite a pessimistic view of Britain’s health, wealth, government and economy, the research reveals the story of a nation taking happiness and fulfilment into their own hands.

Shift happens also uncovers a clear opportunity for brands: right now, the world is ready for advertising that is impactful, culturally relevant and brings people joy. A deeper understanding of how people feel about life and everyday activities means that brands can tap into the things that really matter.

When the big picture feels overwhelming, people need a way to take control of their own story

The overall consensus of the study is that life has been tough, with 70% saying they feel like “we’ve lived through a collective trauma”. However, when asked to rate their happiness 91% say they are feeling “happy or OK”.

When participants were asked about the wider world, there was an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, hypervigilance and anxiety. Interestingly, the study suggests that a chaotic world has largely left people’s underlying levels of happiness unaffected. Within the study nearly three times as many people rated their personal life as “good” compared to the “world out there”, while 62% say they have separated their personal lives from the outside world.

Cheryl, 50, Manchester: “I wouldn’t say I’m less happy. It’s the things that are cheap or free in life that make you happy.”

As a coping mechanism, people are taking control by putting themselves first. By mentally separating themselves from the headlines, they are more optimistic about the future. The research confirms this: 84% say they think their personal life will get better or stay the same, while 81% say that the world will get worse or stay the same.

Main character energy, a deeper understanding of ‘self’

Despite the trauma and upheaval of the last few years, many have experienced a therapeutic reset and moments of enlightenment: 72% say the last few years has made them re-evaluate what’s important to them, 68% are more focused on “living well” and 70% are just getting on with life and worrying less about what they can’t control.

Heather, 52, London: “I’m putting it in my box of things I can’t worry about.”

The mainstream adoption of self-care means that people have learnt what makes them happy, what’s good for them and what to leave behind. A deeper understanding of “self” means that people are more confident when it comes to saying “no” to activities they don’t really like doing.

Personal pleasure habits and finding joy in everyday moments

71% of survey respondents say that finding joy and happiness in everyday moments, and opportunities to escape stress are important to live well. Small joys are being found in everyday activities, such as having a decent tea break; going for a walk; exercising; meditating; socialising; listening to a podcast; experiencing live events; swapping clothes; volunteering; and cooking a Friday night “fakeaway”.

There is strong appreciation for the role relationships play in our wellbeing – 75% think good relationships are key in helping them “live well”, while 58% say good relationships have become more important to them over the last couple of years. More time is being invested with friends and family, with research participants describing their friends as “a tonic”. However, people are also more calculated with their time and who they spend it with, expecting an “ROI on friendships” – and even dumping friends when needed.

Suminder, 39, Birmingham: “I look for the little things – be there for someone, help them get through their stresses and struggles. That in itself is rewarding.”

Connections are also being made in the most surprising of places – 71% of those who engage in clothes swaps and sustainable activities do so to help them feel part of a community.

For singles, dating is no longer just a means of finding love – people who have started dating in the last six months are 1.6x more likely to be seeking things that help them to understand more about themselves than people in general.

James Fleetham, director of client sales, Guardian News & Media, says: “I love this report because it answers the question advertisers ask us the most; what’s happening in culture? It combines trends that inspire our lifestyle journalism, quantified by stats that reflect how people really feel about life right now.

“This is what we do best at the Guardian. Our journalists speak to real people, spot trends, connect the dots and reflect that through their reporting. It’s the job of our advertising team to help brands tap into that.”

Imogen Fox, chief advertising officer, Guardian News & Media, said: “This brilliant research presents a really clear business opportunity for brands: provide much-needed moments of joy to help people let go and feel good about life. And the Guardian is the perfect partner to help. One of the benefits of being a modern lifestyle brand is that we cover everything. Our pages are stacked with beautifully designed ideas to inspire, entertain and provoke conversation – a great place to advertise.”

In the Guardian you’ll find articles on everything from inspirational and practical takes on cost of living cooking, the rewards of setting up a walking group, 100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying, pre-loved clothes, “beige flags” in dating and the therapy of washing your hair, says the publisher.

Shift happens explains why Guardian lifestyle journalism has been receiving millions of views. There’s been a shift in what people are doing and why they’re doing it – and they’re coming to the Guardian for inspiration. In the last couple of years there has been a 24% year-on-year increase in page views to Guardian “walking” content – the Guardian saw a 23% increase in page views to all food content in 2022 v 2021 and 16.3m hits to Guardian fashion content in the last three months alone.

This research study was undertaken on behalf of the Guardian by independent research agency Tapestry, the publisher added, using mobile diaries, at-home interviews and a nationwide survey. Participants were diverse and representative of the people currently living in the UK. Representation includes a range of ages (18-65), genders, social grades, income and ethnicity.

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